Walking into the space at the Samstag Museum of Art, you would be forgiven for thinking you had gotten there too late, and that the production crew had already packed up the set. Bare white floors and walls await, with one overhanging light strip and what appears to be flood lights in the four corners of the room. When the dancers appear, they are draped in neutral, skin-tone costumes, making them appear naked and raw in their bare environment.
Immediately, you get a feel for what Adelaide-born director and concept designer Daniel Jaber was trying to create. Nought, a production by The Australian Dance Theatre, is a journey of discovering dance at its core. The work has periods of silence, mixed with music and spoken words to emphasise the dancers’ vulnerabilities. Catherine Ziersch’s costuming, Lucie Balsamo’s production design and Jaber’s incredible choreography all assist to draw attention away from the traditional ‘dancer focused’ style of dance and instead focuses on the space and the movement which occurs in that space.
The choreography eliminates the notion of the dancer as an individual, yet at the same time questions the notion of a collective. Lighting either floods the stage with light or cast everything into shadow highlighting the flawless and fearless nature of the movement. The choreography itself is a combination of dramatic and sudden bursts of energy and symmetrical duets, and stark, contrasting stillness. The seven incredibly talented dancers move independent of each other as well as in synchronicity, and the audience may either choose to follow the pathway of the individuals or watch the performers en-masse.
The dancers perform whilst sporadically counting from one to eight, reminding the audience that this modern and conceptual piece is still tied to the traditional rhythmic tempo of dance. This counting and movement creates the ‘logical’ connection between the performance and numerical, structured movements. In the final moments of the performance, dancer Samantha Hines, stands separate from the ensemble and recites a monologue which is akin to spoken word poetry. “Can a human body be like a number?” she asks, articulating the overriding question which drove Jaber to create this investigative piece. Hines reiterates the nakedness and raw elements of this performance when she says that the dancer is like an “unknown quantity”, and “able to take on all forms”. By returning the dancer to “zero”, Hines claims “the more I dance, the more I am what I dance. […] Blank. Naked. Non-existent”.
Nought takes the audience through a process of discovery, ending with a poignant insight into the choreographer’s ability to tell a story through their structured movements, and the “naked canvas” that is the dancers body. A cross between a math class, a poetry reading, Swan Lake and a gym session, Nought does not disappoint, nor does it fail to make you question all that you thought you knew about conceptual, modern dance.
Congratulations to Natalie Allen, Zoe Dunwoodie, Scott Ewen, Samantha Hines, Jessica Hesketh, Matte Roffe, Kimball Wong and Daniel Jaber on a fantastic run.
Reviewed by Jenna Woods
Venue: Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Hawke Building, City West Campus, University of South Australia, 55 North Terrace, Adelaide
Season: 25 – 27 September, 2013
Duration: One Hour
Photo Credit: Chris Herzfeld Camlight Productions